San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Lessons from the lingerie

During the course of my first job, I learned quite a bit about the true nature of people. People are lazy, disgusting and cheap. People want a fair shake, except when it comes to prices, in which case they want 15 percent off an already discounted jean jacket. People are self-entitled imbeciles. Or at least customers are.

After the first month, the people I worked with began to open up to me about their lives. Their honesty disturbed me. Phillisha wore only the brightest colors possible. She worked in the lingerie section, but pronounced the word “ling-er-ee” and didn’t understand when I corrected her by using French syllables: “ohn-jer-ay”.

“Long John who?” she asked. “Anyway, like I said, I have obses- sive compulsive disorder. Before I leave the house, I have to flick the light switch 18 times, flush the toilet twice and zip the crotches of five random pairs of jeans. Then I’ll walk halfway to work, walk back home, unlock and lock the door 22 times. After that, I can finally walk all the way to work. I have to leave a few hours before my shift starts, but what else would I be doing all day?”

Her story didn’t make sense to me. Often, when working behind the cash register, she miscounted customers’ change, an especially annoying habit during the holiday season when the lines ran 20 to 30 people deep.

Once when she called in sick, I was forced to “block” the lingerie department by picking up all the bras and panties littering the floor and rehanging them in their respec- tive sections designated by

cup size and band measurements. With all the letters and numbers circling me, I suddenly realized why our superiors hired the OCD girl for this department. She needed to cata- log everything into perfect order.

I argued with my manager, “Sir… I, uh, I don’t know anything about women’s underwear.”

“Sure you don’t,” he said, as he winked and elbowed me. “I was your age once.”

I looked around for the cameras. I was sure I’d been reeled into a hidden-camera show and my friends were having a good laugh at my expense.

When he walked off, I wandered into the racks of underwear and kept my head and eyes down. Women filtered past, occasionally pulling lacy, silken sets off hangers and posing them on top of their chests. Worst of all were the more than 70-year-old women asking for help, their corneas burdened with a milkiness I found myself jealous of when they insisted on finding some- thing to “Hold everything down” or “Keep everything in.” Who’d driven them here? Surely if they couldn’t see the standard text on the bra tags, they couldn’t see when a child dove into the street after a baseball or runaway kitten. Where were their chauffeurs or their children? This wasn’t my burden.

A few hours in, a coworker in her late 20s named Mary noticed my discomfort and rescued me. The rest of the night, I worked behind the register. What once seemed agonizingly boring was now exciting—the joyful buzz of receipts being printed and the feeling of old, sweaty bills running through my fingers was sweet bliss.

Ten months later, I filed my two- week notice and bought sheets for my dorm room. Soon, I’d move to San Diego and be free from the agony of retail.

Mary was surprisingly upset. Somehow, I had an impact on her life, which struck me as terrifying- ly pathetic. On my last night, she called in to see what time I’d go on break without my knowledge.

When I came in she stood in the break room, wearing a smile I’d later recognize as obsessive. A few gifts were laid on the table. There were two dishes filled with homemade cupcakes and a cou- ple laminated bookmarks. One contained her contact informa- tion and the other was a playful acronym of my name: M: Magnanimous. A: Awesome. S: Sexy. O: Optimistic. N: Naughty.

“Dear God,” I whispered to myself, while she hugged me. Mary wasn’t so bad—but she was quite a bit older than me and needed a hobby to occupy her time and awkward energy.

“Let’s grab dinner before you leave,” she said.

“Sure, sure,” I replied and fin- ished my break 10 minutes early.

After closing, a couple friends picked me up to celebrate the end of my last shift of my first job. Sitting in the booths of a local mom-and- pop diner, Joey stared at the bookmark and laughed for quite a while.

“This should read: Mary’s Actually Scarily Obsessed Now,” Joey said.

“I wouldn’t eat those cupcakes,” Steve said. “You can’t trust them.”

Mary called and emailed me a lot throughout the next six months. I never once responded.

I was living in the residence halls and thankful to have a roommate. In case she unexpectedly showed up one day, I practiced a speech I’d give her:

“Yeah, sorry, I don’t remember you. That car accident caused me to lose all my memories of the past two years. Anyway, bye, have a safe trip back up to wherever.”

I’d forgotten about Mary until recently. At my current retail job, a new female coworker overheard me talking to a friend about how

I haven’t dated anyone for about two years. She walked up to me, head cocked to one side and asked, “You don’t have a girlfriend?”

“Nope. Surprising, huh?” I sarcastically responded.

“Yeah, actually. I mean, I think you have very striking features. I think you’re handsome.”

“Oh. Well, thanks.”

“Yeah, I mean, I’d date you if you weren’t so old.”

After she left, I walked back into the warehouse to look for the store’s emergency first-aid kit. Along with the aspirin, we were all out of the gauze and aloe I needed for the major burn I’d just suffered.

I’m still trying to figure people out. I’ve come up with a consensus: generally, people are honest and act with the best of intentions. I’m working toward this more and more. The truth I live by? usually it’s best to keep everything in and hold everything down.

Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Lessons from the lingerie